England's Sam Underhill was immense for the England in their shock win over New Zealand last week. Photo: Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo
England's Sam Underhill was immense for the England in their shock win over New Zealand last week. Photo: Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo

Springboks will need to beat Curry and Underhill to the ball

By mark keohane Time of article published Oct 30, 2019

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Tom Curry, 21, was a nine-year-old the last time the All Blacks lost a World Cup match. Sam Underhill was 11-years-old. A few days ago the duo, nicknamed the “Kamikaze Kids” by England coach Eddie Jones, destroyed the All Blacks.

Curry and Underhill a year ago were competing for the England No 7 jersey, but the more Jones saw of the two, the more he knew it was not a case of one or the other, but both.

Jones changed his thinking when it came to his loose-forward combination. Billy Vunipola, if fit, was the obvious starting No 8. Jones then took the plunge to pair Curry and Underhill for a World Cup warm-up match against Wales, but injury forced Underhill to withdraw.

Jones would have to wait until Ireland a week later to formally announce the duo to the world - and if you missed the record-breaking win against Ireland, you wouldn’t have missed England at the World Cup. They’ve been brilliant and the loose-forward pairing of Curry and Underhill have been without comparison.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus knows that to beat this current England team, you have to beat Curry and Underhill to the ball.

The naming of the duo as the “Kamikaze Kids”, said Jones, was that they “hit everything that moves” and because they have such a disregard for their own safety when it comes to any collision.

The two, with 32 caps between them, have started just five Tests together, and England have obliterated the opposition in all five of those Tests, with the wins against Ireland, pre-World Cup and the All Blacks in last weekend’s semi-final particularly awe-inspiring.

Underhill said he always knew the two could be a potent combination because of how they train against each other.

“We are competing all the time,” said Underhill. “I’m looking at him and I am thinking: ‘I am trying to beat him to stuff, get on the ball more than him.’ He is probably thinking the same thing: ‘I want to beat you because I want the No 7 shirt.’ The key for the two of us is going to be maintaining that level of competition when we are on the same team.”

So far it hasn’t proved a problem. The duo may wear different numbers, but they play exactly the same role.

Australia and New Zealand have traditionally played twin-fetchers over the years and often caused England problems, but finally England have found two players with the ideal strengths to master the role as a combination.

Vunipola, the veteran loose-forward at 26-years-old, has been awed by the performances of Curry and Underhill.

He singled out Underhill’s crunching hit on All Black captain Kieran Read and described the two players as being like “Duracell Bunnies”.

“They just go all day,” said Vunipola. “The work they put in is inspiring for me and the rest of the team. It is not just the turnovers, but also the work with the ball. I don’t know who started going to the gym earlier, but those boys started early Unders doesn’t have a neck as his back is so big and Curry is the same. He is massive.”


The Star

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